New dispatch audio suggests human error in Greece train collision
The audio reveals the Larissa station master directed a driver to go through a red signal light and forgot to request a track switch, leading to the crash
Greece’s tragic train collision that resulted in at least 57 deaths and 48 hospitalizations appears to have been caused by human error.
New audio transcripts of the dispatch between the station and a train driver corroborate this finding, per CNN.
What did the train driver and the station say?
The conversation between the driver and station has been released. Translations of this transcript vary in precise wording, though they all say the same thing — the station master instructed a local train driver to ignore a red signal light after directing a switchman to leave a diagonal track and neglecting to request a switch.
This error led to the commercial train and the Intercity train meeting in a fatal collision on the same track, per b92.
Greek news site KNews records the conversation between the station master and the switchman as follows:
Switchman: Vasilis, do I turn it now?
Station master: No, no, leave it because 1564 is on the way.
Switchman: Copy that, I leave it on turnout.
According to KNews, the station master’s instructions to the driver to ignore the red signal light went as follows:
Train driver: Larissa, do you copy?
Station master: Copy. Number 47 proceed through the red light exit until the Poros traffic light exit.
Driver: Vasilis, do I go?
Station master: Go, go.
Driver: Copy, have a nice evening.
Station master: Carry on.
Why did the station master direct the driver to go through the red light?
Knews reports that there were faulty signals that station masters knew about, but there was no automated system to remedy this issue.
As it turns out, this issue was to be the focus of rail safety upgrades in Greece that had been stalled, per The New York Times.
According to Nikolaos Tsikalakis, the president of the staff union of the Greek national railroad organization, Larissa’s switch system had been out-of-date and had missing signaling equipment for years.
What kept the country from making life-saving upgrades?
The simple answer ranges from budgets and supply-chain issues to bureaucratic delays, per The New York Times.
Tsikalakis explains, “We have told every government about these issues, but we have not found open ears.”
Rail unions go on strike and protesters fill the streets
In response to the tragic train collision, the public has taken to protesting in the streets and a railway workers union is on strike, per CNN.
Protesters took to the streets in Athens outside of Hellenic Train’s headquarters on Thursday night. They engaged in a peaceful demonstration amid a striking police presence, a precaution left over from a clash with protesters the day before.
Over the years, rail officials in Greece have sent the government letters detailing the changes that need to be made to make their rails safer, The New York Times reported.
The most recent letter was sent just last month and said, “We will not wait for the coming accident to see them cry crocodile tears. What else are they waiting for to happen to intervene?”